Dhaka [Bangladesh] : India and Pakistan’s first direct encounter in the War of Independence for Bangladesh took place fifty years ago on November 21. Armies of both nations were well-equipped with tanks and fighter jets at Garibpur near Khulna’s Boyra.
Reports say, Indian army had destroyed 13 M24 Chaffee light tanks and two F-86 Sabres (fighter jet) along with capturing of two Pakistani air officials by Muktibahini, reported Bangladesh Live News. Brigadier Balram Singh Mehta, the second-in-command of India’s then 45th Cavalry C Squadron, believes that the Indian army could have advanced to Jessore Cantonment in East Pakistan following the victory in the battle of Garibpur. But the squadron commander Major Daljit Singh Narang, who was responsible to give instructions, had died during the combat. While Pakistan’s army had been attacking Indian territory and Mukti Bahini Camps through tanks and warplanes.
Reportedly, two weeks before Indira Gandhi had declared war. The Indian army along with Bangladeshi freedom fighters had decided to carry out a counter operation via the Garibpur front, reported Bangladesh Live News.
Brigadier Balram Singh Mehta told Bangla Tribune, “I was then the second-in-command of the 45th Cavalry Squadron. We had Russian PT-76 tanks in our fleet. Together with the 14th Punjab Battalion, on the night of 20th November, we crossed the Kabadak river and entered the border of Garibpur… after dawn on the 21st, the Pakistani tank fleet started fighting with our tanks. They had 14 American Chaffee tanks with them. Major Daljit Singh Narang, the commander of our squadron, lost his life in the Pakistani shelling almost at the beginning of the war. As a result, the responsibility of conducting the war fell on me. Just then my tank started malfunctioning. Meanwhile, three Pakistani tanks surrounded us. Almost miraculously we managed to bring down all three tanks. When their gunner was coming out of a Pakistani tank, I stopped the gunner in my tank from firing at him. Later, when we took him a prisoner of war and gave him tea and biscuits, he was still giving thanks.”
A war film named, Pippa, starring Ishan Khatter is being made on the book ‘The Burning Chaffees’ by Brigadier Mehta.